With the turning of the calendar from 2018 to 2019 comes with a big adjustment to The Rules of Golf.
For the past two years, the USGA and R&A have been working to modernize the rules to make them more palatable to golfers of all skill levels while encouraging an improved pace of play — one of the sports’ biggest barriers.
While there have been over 30 “major changes,” according to the USGA, here are the five areas that impact everyday golfers the most and will likely need to be known for your first round of 2019.
Taking A Drop
Whether you’re accepting a penalty or getting free relief, most golfers need to take a drop at some point during their round. The new procedure for doing so will require a drop from knee-height.
Lost Ball Search
Perhaps the most straight-forward change, if you are searching for a lost ball, your time to find it has been cut from five minutes to three — one of the many efforts the governing bodies are making to speed up play.
There are a few big changes coming on the putting surface that will affect everyday play. The big ones you should be aware of are that you can now fix any imperfections on the putting surface, including spike marks and animal damage; and the flagstick is permitted to be kept in the hole and struck by the ball without additional penalty.
Similar to the greens, bunkers will have a few different options available to golfers in 2019. You can now remove loose impediments from a bunker as well as make incidental contact in the sand, both of which were previously penalized under the rules.
You are still not allowed to ground your club in a bunker prior to making a stroke or in an effort to test the surface of the sand.
Additionally, you can now take complete relief from a bunker in the form of an unplayable lie and at the penalty of two strokes.
Stroke And Distance Penalty
The fifth and perhaps most important adjustment as it pertains to amateur golfers and their everyday rounds is the adoptable stroke and distance local rule. Under this provision, instead of having to re-hit your shot from the previous place, you can take a relief drop in the area between where you believe your ball to have been lost or last crossed out of bounds at the penalty of two strokes.